MLB-bound Shohei Otani picked in first round of Japan’s draft

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Despite the declaration that he wants to pitch in MLB, right-hander Shohei Otani was picked in the first round in Japan’s amateur draft by the Nippon Ham Fighters on Thursday.

The selection means that Otani will be unable to sign with an MLB team before the end of March, per an agreement between the two leagues. That gives the Fighters a few months to try to change his mind about making the jump across the Pacific. If Otani had gone undrafted, he could have signed with an MLB team immediately. The Rangers, Dodgers and Red Sox have been labeled his biggest suitors.

“My feelings haven’t changed,” Otani said after being selected. “I’m grateful that they appreciate me, but it doesn’t change my desire to play in America.”

Fellow right-hander Shintaro Fujinami also went in the first round, getting selected by the Hanshin Tigers. Like Otani, Fujinami has been the subject of interest from MLB teams. However, it’s believed he intends to remain in Japan.

The Dodgers do not have a general manager, but they have an assistant general manager

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LAS VEGAS — Farhan Zaidi left his job as the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers to become the president of baseball operations for the San Francisco Giants. While Dodgers president Andrew Friedman remains at the top of the baseball operations department, Zaidi’s departure has left the Dodgers without a general manager. It happens. It also happens that the Dodgers do not plan to replace Zaidi with a new general manager any time soon. They just said so last week.

They do, however, have an assistant general manager now. It’s Jeff Kingston, late of the Seattle Mariners, where he served as Jerry Dipoto’s assistant. Now he is an assistant with no one, nominally, to assist. Seems like some sort of dividing by zero error, philosophically speaking, but we’ll just assume it’ll sort itself out.

Two less cosmic takeaways from this: 1. Kingston is an analytics guy who has typically advised the wheeler-dealer — Dipoto — so it’s fairly safe to assume he’ll do that in Los Angeles too; and 2. that a team is happy to proceed without a general manager should tell you where general managers, well, in general, stand in this age of title inflation in baseball front offices.

I imagine that, after some time in the organization, Kingston will be named the actual general manager with no real change in his duties, further underscoring that, in this day and age, the title of GM is like the value of a Zimbabwean dollar.